It's not too early to get the flu shot. Read on for other words of advice on warding off this annual tormentor.
What’s worth noting about this year’s flu season? It’s a mixed bag of the same oft-repeated advice and new information.
The biggest news: No more giving kids the nasal spray FluMist. While FluMist has been the flu vaccine preference for children for many years, the American Academy of Pediatrics now says kids should not get it this year.
A panel of experts found the nasal spray has not been effective the past three seasons. It’s unclear why. Now the AAP recommends instead that all kids over 6 months get the flu shot, which experts say was about 63 percent effective in protecting against the flu last year.
Even if you do become infected after vaccination, doctors say you're far less likely to have a severe case.
"Influenza can take a normal healthy child or even adult and put them into the emergency room in 24 hours," warned Vanderbilt University's Dr. William Schaffner. "This is a serious infection."
Doctors say getting the flu vaccine now should offer protection through the spring.
That brings the next bit of advice: It’s not too early to get the flu shot.
“Some common myths about flu shots are about their timing and effectiveness,” said Dr. Jamie Kerr, medical director for the region’s largest health insurer, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
“Many people incorrectly think that once the flu season has started, it’s too late for the vaccination to work. We’ve also heard people incorrectly assume that they should wait until later in the season to get their flu vaccination in order for it to last through May and beyond,” Kerr said.
As long as the flu viruses are circulating, people who haven’t been vaccinated are at risk of getting sick, Kerr said. She also stressed that, in most cases, getting the vaccine early, including in September, will provide immunity for the entire flu season.
Excellus BCBS reviewed state statistics on confirmed flu cases for the past four years and found wide variations on when the flu begins to peak. For example, during the 2012-13 flu season, the virus hit state residents hardest in December and January, and then diminished month by month through May. But last flu season, the wave of cases hit hardest in February, peaked in March and ended with the highest number of reported flu cases in years for the months of April and May.
On average, 45,000 New Yorkers get the flu each year. Nationwide, the flu virus causes 200,000 hospitalizations and nearly 24,000 deaths each year. To encourage people to get vaccinated, Excellus BCBS displayed its findings in a graphic illustration being shared with physician offices and pharmacies in its coverage area, which includes the Rochester/Finger Lakes region.
A poster version is available for free download at http://bit.ly/2cFbKCJ.
As well as being vaccinated, people are also urged to remember those tips for staying healthy during flu season and all year. They include frequent hand washing, staying home when you are sick, avoiding close contact with others who are sick, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Need a shot?
Many pharmacies are offering flu vaccines, as well as workplaces, doctor’s offices and hospitals. Thompson Health offers the following flu clinics on these Wednesdays:
Sept. 21, 3-7 p.m.; Shortsville Fire Department, 5 Sheldon St., Shortsville
Sept. 28, 2:30-7 p.m.; Town of Farmington offices, 1000 County Road 8, Farmington
Oct. 5, 4-7 p.m.; Healthworks, 1160 Corporate Drive, Farmington
NOTE: The vaccine is administered to those 9 years of age and older.
Self-pay cost: $28 (cash, check, MC/VISA accepted). Thompson will accept Medicare, MVP products, BlueCross BlueShield products and commercial insurances. Patients must present insurance card at time of visit. For more information, call 585-924-1510.